Subject: Dorset Xmas Walk
Journal: The Times Weekend Review
Date: Xmas 2004
Author: Clive Fewins
Powerstock, this way ...
Walks radiate in many directions out of the picture postcard West Dorset village of Powerstock. I chose to approach the village from the hamlet of Nettlecombe, just under a mile to the south, parking my car by the unusually-named Marquis of Lorne pub. The road descends steeply down the narrow main street, and at the point where it peters out a bridleway leads directly to Powerstock along a deep valley. It skirts round a former motte and bailey, known as King John’s Castle, and before long you find yourself on the minor road leading into Powerstock village from the east.
Apart from a lovely church Powerstock has and excellent pub, the Three Horseshoes, which is a mecca for walkers if you arrive at the right time. Take the steep lane – Ruscombe Lane – leading due north out of the village. It leads to the hamlet of South Poorton, just over a mile away. At South Poorton divert, if you wish, to visit the shrunken village of North Poorton and its tiny church of St. Mary Magdalene, which in the 19th century replaced the ruined church still to be seen just to the north. Retrace your steps to South Poorton and take the lane leading west towards Spring Hill Farm.
Just before you reach the farm take the path to West Milton – it is clearly marked – to your left. It is pretty sticky at first – this is the area where the Mangerton River you are to follow rises – but once you ascend to the right and cross a stile then the hillside path is plain sailing provided you keep a sharp eye out for the arrowed signs. As you bowl along the 1½ mile long path keep a lookout for the strip lynchets on the hillside opposite. If you are lucky like I was, you will see buzzards, and might even spot the odd fox following a stealthy route across the scrubby valleyside.
Eventually you will find yourself walking beside a small copse of mature hazels. Bear right beyond this and keep to the path as it ascends across a field to a stile beside a gate in the corner. This leads to a bridleway that takes you to the remains of another ancient church, this time at West Milton. Keep ahead through a gap in the churchyard wall. Now you have a splendid view of Eggardon Hill (Thomas Hardy called it “Haggardon Hill”) with its magnificent triple-banked hill fort to the east.
The footpath is signposted through the next field and straight ahead down to the gate opposite. Cross the bridge over the stream, and continue to follow the path through a metal gate. Then keep to the track beside the river towards Powerstock. It is muddy and uneven, but clearly waymarked. After about a mile, at the point where the track turns left towards the village up a steep slope, continue straight ahead until you hit the minor road back to Nettlecombe.
Further information: About 4½ miles: allow two hours. Stout boots recommended.
The Marquis of Lorne: 01308 485236.
The Three Horseshoes: 01308 485229.